“What’s the point of even going to school anymore if I can’t play my sport that I love?” 17 year old Nataliegh Badgero asked state lawmakers Thursday. She loves basketball. But she can't play for her school right now.
Michigan legislators held a pair of committee hearings to give high school student athletes and their parents a chance to make their plea to let students play winter and spring sports despite the covid pandemic.
The Whitmer administration has repeatedly delayed the start of winter sports. The current plan is to delay starting winter contact sports like basketball, wrestling, and competitive cheer until February 21.
But during sometimes tearful testimony, student athletes pleaded for the chance to resume their high school sports careers immediately.
“We aren’t asking to ignore the facts,” 17 year old Nico Johnson told the Senate Education Committee, “We’re simply asking to implement the practices all the other states are using that are allowing them to move forward with their lives.”
His mother, Stacy Johnson is the superintendent of the Britton-Deerfield schools. She is also a covid survivor. Johnson says high school athletes can be trusted to follow coronavirus protocols.
“We will keep these kids safe and we will take all measures necessary to continue the fight against covid 19 but it’s time to move forward,” says Johnson.
Republican lawmakers, many not wearing masks during the committee meetings, were sympathetic. The Senate Education Committee approved a resolution calling on the governor to lift restrictions on high school sports.
But Democratic lawmakers expressed concern.
“Acting as though we shouldn’t wait for the vaccine seems to me roughly the equivalent of running a marathon and lighting yourself on fire just when you can see the finish line,” says State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids).
A spokeswoman says Governor Gretchen Whitmer is reviewing with public health experts on the safest steps forward re-engaging high school sports.
“This virus is still a genuine threat. COVID-19 is mutating, and that mutation is in Michigan, which is why we must take steps towards re-engagement strategically and watch the data” says Chelsea Parisio, Deputy Press Secretary, “Gov. Whitmer will continue to make data-focused decisions that protect the public health of Michiganders.”
Parents and students plan to return to the state capitol on Saturday for a “Let Them Play” rally.